LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survived a ferocious challenge from tea party star Sharron Angle on Tuesday to win a fifth term, giving the White House reason to celebrate on a night of sweeping Democratic losses in Congress.
It was not easy. At midyear, Reid appeared headed for defeat as Nevada suffered with the nation's worst unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. But he told voters that no one could match his clout on Capitol Hill, and warned that Angle would usher in an era in which Social Security and Medicare would be on the chopping block.
Reid promised to return the state to prosperity, and he depicted Angle as a fringe conservative whose policies would hurt Nevada families.
An Angle win would have made her Nevada's first woman senator and earned Reid the indignity of becoming the first Senate majority leader to lose re-election since Arizona's Ernest W. McFarland in 1952.
Reid's win was a surprise in a race where a succession of polls showed a dead heat and he acknowledged he was in trouble. But Reid was winning Tuesday by a 6-point margin in Republican-leaning Washoe County, Angle's home turf.
The race played out against a turbulent national political year. It was the tea party against the Beltway, insider versus outsider, the old hand versus the new face.
It pitted the dour, soft-spoken Reid, never widely popular at home, against the unpolished, gaffe-prone Angle, whose sometimes unconventional ideas included using a drug-rehabilitation program for inmates devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. She prided herself on breaking from convention, even distancing herself from the GOP that eventually embraced her.
Reid's platform was power. The 71-year-old one-time boxer touted his ability to bring federal money to his home state - no one could do more, he argued - and played up his role salvaging the Las Vegas Strip's massive CityCenter development, in which he pressured bankers to keep money flowing, and his hand in killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump. He had the backing of the powerful casino industry, and the union members who work in them.
But Angle saw Reid as part of the problem - a Democratic-led Congress broadening government's reach into places it shouldn't go, while accelerating spending and debt. She called Reid "the poster child of what's gone wrong in America."